Support pours in for paralyzed Minnesota prep hockey playerMore than 53,000 visits have been recorded on Jack Jablonski’s CaringBridge site. Visitors include friends, family, strangers and NHL players expressing their support.
By: Tim Leighton, St. Paul Pioneer Press / MCT
Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School didn’t have a boys hockey game Tuesday night. That was a blessing, Red Knights coach Ken Pauly said.
"We still need time," he said. "Not having a game is good news."
The St. Louis Park-based parochial school is coping with a devastating injury to Jack Jablonski. The sophomore hockey player suffered a severed spinal cord at the neck and two fractured vertebrae when he was checked from behind in a junior-varsity game Friday against Wayzata in the Holiday Hockey Classic in St. Louis Park.
Jablonski, 16, remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Hennepin County Medical Center. He is immobilized with a halo and unable to move his legs.
HCMC spokeswoman Christine Hill said Jablonski did not have spinal fusion surgery Tuesday, which had been a possibility.
"It’s a quiet day for Jack and his parents," Hill said.
An update posted Tuesday night on Jablonski's CaringBridge website said the procedure would be performed this morning.
Meanwhile, support from the hockey community continues to be loud and strong. More than 53,000 visits have been recorded on Jablonski’s CaringBridge site. Visitors include friends, family, strangers and NHL players expressing their support for Jablonski. Twitter and Facebook have been busy, too, with messages of encouragement.
"I am just so impressed by the overwhelming support for this family from the Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey team. Those young men are gentlemen," Hill said.
"Without question, one of the best things the Benilde-St. Margaret’s community does is come through in times of need," Pauly said. "This might be what we do best."
Still, Pauly said, his team is hurting and unsure how to continue with its season. He said he kept Monday’s practice to a light skate. The Red Knights’ varsity squad will return to action Thursday against Wayzata. The junior varsity game, however, has been canceled.
Wayzata activities director Jaime Sherwood said Tuesday that after speaking with Benilde-St. Margaret’s AD Jerry Pettinger, both concluded the junior varsity squads aren’t ready to play.
"It’s too soon," Sherwood said. "What these kids are going through is so tough. There isn’t a how-to manual out there for them during a time like this."
"The best thing we can do for our team is to get them back to a normal routine, but really, what is routine when you have a horrible injury to one of your teammates?" Pauly said.
"We have to continue to be there for Jack and his parents, Mike and Leslie. To say the mood of our team is upbeat would be ridiculous. These kids have been supportive and have rallied. They have been put into an adult situation and been asked to cope with it. This isn’t a day-to-day thing or a week-to-week thing. This is a situation we will be dealing with for a long, long time."
Pauly, in his 24th year of coaching and his second stint at the high school, said he left the Red Knights’ junior varsity game before the injury. When he heard the news, he was stunned.
"It’s like a kick in the gut, a kick in the head or a belt to the stomach," Pauly said. "They do talk about those stages of denial and disbelief. This was one of those times. You first think of Jack, then his parents. The last thing you think about is yourself."
Pauly said he and his team are strengthened by Jablonski’s spirit and attitude.
"He is an incredible kid," Pauly said. "He is staying pretty dang positive. That first day in the hospital, he was like any high school kid: He appreciated the visits from the cute girls. He knows he is in for a long fight. Whatever challenges I have as a coach, it pales in comparison to what Jack is facing. He is a tough and well-respected kid with a lot of supporters behind him."
Those supporters also include the Wayzata High School boys hockey program. Sherwood said many of the school’s players have visited Jablonski at HCMC and have also attended prayer services for him.
"These kids (from Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Wayzata) know each other so well; they have played hockey with and against one another for years," Sherwood said. "Our hearts go out to the Jablonskis and the Benilde-St. Margaret’s community. That is the No. 1 priority right now. We also need to make sure our kids are OK, too."
In the wake of Jablonski’s injury, the Minnesota State High School League on Tuesday issued a reminder to hockey coaches, officials and athletic administrators on "the continued emphasis on eliminating checking from behind."
"We extend our support and sympathies to the individuals in the Benilde-St. Margaret’s community who have experienced sadness in the past several days," school president Bob Tift said in a statement late Tuesday. "Our first concerns are for students and parents who are suffering."
RALLY CRIES OF SUPPORT
Visitors to Jablonski’s CaringBridge site include: